Sifu Dan Inosanto: “What is Jeet Kune Do About?”

October 11, 20150 Comments

Bruce “Not” the Truth

It has been written a hundred times and probably said a thousand times. Nothing I can say will change this. Truth cannot be perceived until we have come to a full understanding of ourselves and our potential. According to Bruce Lee, “knowledge in the martial arts ultimately means self-knowledge.”

Dan Inosanto JKDTherefore, being able to jab, cross, hook, bob and weave, slip right and slip left does not qualify a person as a Jeet Kune Do expert. Being able to side kick, round kick, straight kick and spin kick does not qualify a person as a JKD practitioner. Nor does performing various chokes, strangles and body locks qualify one as a JKD expert. Going through “the ranks” at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts in Marina del Rey, California; or the IMB Academy in Carson (California), cannot assure you of the knowledge you are supposed to possess as a JKD practitioner.

Being trained in the JKD class itself does not assure you of being knowledgeable in JKD matters.

In fact, I will say those trained by Bruce Lee himself cannot really say they know all about JKD. Of those who were trained by Bruce, each picked up something from him, but it was a partial segment of all that he was trying to teach us as a totality. Herein lies the danger. Some have taught this partial truth as JKD, and what I fear is that their students will develop an “elitist” attitude that they are better than the rest of the martial art community because of what Bruce taught them. It must be remembered that JKD is a process of learning; it is not a product. Like a style, this process must be experienced and experimented with until you understand yourself.

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Jeet Kune Do for Bruce was neither an end unto itself, nor was it merely a byproduct: it was a means of self-discovery. In other words, it was a prescription for personal growth, and investigation of freedom to act naturally and effectively not only in combat, but in life. It means “to absorb what is useful, to reject what is useless and to add specifically waht is your own.”

The total picture Bruce Lee wanted to present to his pupil was that above everything else he must fnd his own way. He always said, “Your truth is not my truth, and my truth is not yours.” It must be remembered that JKD makes no claim to being a style, so some people conclude perhaps it is being natural or simply indifferent. Again, this is not the case, for JKD is at once “this” and “not this.”

Bruce Lee hoped to “free” his students from the “bondage” of styles, patterns and systems. He did not want his words to be law. He wanted no one to take his advice as “gospel.” He knew that a man in th emartial arts is first and foremost a man. And as a living, creative individual, the man was always more important than any “created” system or style.

Truth is always universal, and to an extent almost every style or system is self-limiting. It is imporant to remember that Bruce Lee was a “pointer” to the truth and not the truth itself.

With the forming of Jeet Kune Do Society, there has been much controversy over whether Bruce would have gone along these lines. I can only say those who have descended from the “Bruce Lee clan” will bring up the art in many different ways, and follow many different paths. They will develop and go in many different directions, both in their techniques and philosophical outlook in trying to preserve the teachings of Bruce Lee. This is good, as long as they do not insist their way is the way that Bruce would have wanted his art to develop. For no one truly knows, had Bruce lived, how he himself would have progressed, changed, developed or continued in his concepts of his Jeet Kune Do.

This article by Sifu Dan Inosanto appeared in the July 1988 edition of IKF. 

About the video: In the video interview above, Sifu Dan discusses his thoughts on the various camps of Jeet Kune Do, what Jeet Kune Do is, finding your own Jeet Kune Do and more.

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